This past week has been crazy if you are a Kansas City Royals fan. The Royals pulled the trigger on a big trade, trading 2012 Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year Wil Myers(and more) for Tampa Bay’s James Shields, Wade Davis and a player to be named later. This has posted two different reactions from Royals fans. One is the fan who doesn’t like the trade and feel the Royals gave up too much. The other is that the team had to do something and now they are in contention for the American League Central title. I know us Royals fans are dying for a winning team, but am I the only one that feels that thinking this makes the Royals contenders is putting the cart before the horse? The Royals still have problems and a bunch of ‘ifs’ that would fill up Kauffmann Stadium.
The obvious problem is Right Field, the position that Wil Myers was planning on taking over in 2013. This now falls back to the guy who has held that spot the past few years, Jeff Francoeur. The problem is that Frenchy stunk up the place in 2012, putting numbers up that are atrocious for a guy batting in the 5th spot most of the year. The numbers are so bad that I’m not even going to put them in here, as they will stink up my article. Just trust me, this guy was quite possibly the worst player in baseball in 2012. For the Royals to be contenders in 2013 they need Francoeur to bounce back. If Jeff can even put up numbers close to what he put up in 2011 then the Royals could be in the conversation this upcoming year. If they are closer to 2012, then we are in trouble. Right now the backup outfielders look to be anyone from David Lough, who had a decent showing in the bigs the last month of the year, and two outfielders picked up off the heap this winter, Xavier Nady and Willy Taveras. Until Francoeur shows everyone that he can perform better than last year(and not blame it on Billy Butler) Right Field will be a problem in Kansas City.
Another problem area is second base. Right now it looks to be a battle between Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella, who neither have really placed a permanent flag on the position. Getz probably had his best year in the big leagues in 2012, as a changed stance seemed to help his batting while displaying solid defense. He still has no power, and is probably still better suited to being a backup, but he has shown improvement. Everyone knows I really like Giavotella, but here is the honest truth that stares us in the face: he has yet to show he DESERVES to be in this spot. Gio has nothing else to prove at AAA, so this very well could be his last chance. He needs to show the team he deserves to be in the lineup or we will be seeing him in a different uniform. Kansas City actually might be best served to acquire someone else to backup, so the team has some insurance. Hopefully someone(Gio) will just step up and take the spot, but neither choices are guaranteed.
A giant ‘if’ going into 2013 is whether or not Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas can get around their sophomore slumps. Hosmer looked lost most of 2012, never really getting into a groove and not looking like a future MVP, like some had predicted(man, who would have done that??). Moustakas had a really good first half, and overall improved his defense by leaps and bounds, but Moose also slumped badly in the second half. In Moose’s case, I wonder just how much his lingering knee issues affected him in the second half. Both will get two new hitting coaches to work with, and hopefully, turn them around. Both guys have always hit, so it seems inevitable that they will return to past glory. But nothing is assured, and it seems odd to me that Royals management is acting like it is. We don’t know which version of these two we will get in 2013, but if it is anything like 2012, Kansas City can kiss those playoff chances goodbye.
As if these weren’t big enough if’s, there is at least one more. Sure, the Royals have upgraded their starting pitching and there is no way it is not better than it was last year. But look at their top three starting pitchers, or the ones the Royals would need to use if they did happen to reach the playoffs: James Shields, Ervin Santana, and Jeremy Guthrie. Yep, sure doesn’t strike a lot of fear in batters once you get past Shields. Now, there is a possibility that Santana will bounce back from his awful year this year, especially if the last couple months are proof. But his velocity has also dipped for the last three years and he seems like an injury waiting to happen. Santana is definitely not a sure thing. I feel more confident with Guthrie, but he is a pitch to contact pitcher, which means the ball will be in play a lot. That also means that batters will get some good swings on him, and he will have the occasional bad start. Hey, that’s fine, it happens. But if the Royals are to be taken seriously as contenders, they need everyone to step it up. If Guthrie pitches like he did for Kansas City in 2012, then it should be okay. If not, we can hope Danny Duffy returns from Tommy John surgery and shows the promise we saw last year before the injury. This starting three does not feel like a playoff team’s rotation. That should worry not only you, but every Royals fan who is getting their hopes up.
So acquiring James Shields doesn’t assure the Royals a playoff spot in 2013. I didn’t even mention how the Royals need to stay healthy, as Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain both spent more time than they should have on the disabled list in 2012. The Royals are going to have to have a lot of things that didn’t go right in 2012 go right in 2013, that is for sure. I know we are all excited that we could have a playoff game in Kansas City, but I think the American League Central will be better in 2013, and the Tigers just re-signed Anibal Sanchez. This team definitely seems like it will be better than this year’s bunch, I can almost guarantee it. But they still feel like a .500 or just under team. All I am saying is lets be realistic about this. Let’s not think that we need to print off playoff tickets before the team even reports to Spring Training. 2012 should have showed the overly optimistic that there is a reason the games are played.